Between three and 10 percent of the older population is abused or neglected, according to a recent Age Concern report.
The report said that referrals to agencies dealing with elder abuse and neglect were only ‘the tip of the iceberg’ and up to 45,000 people over 65 in New Zealand could be subject to abuse.
Sr Raye Boyle LCM who works with older people in the community, says much of the abuse comes from family members.
Sr Raye gives some thoughts on the treatment of elders in our society.
‘Love one another as I have loved you’ is Jesus’ call to each one of us. Sadly as we look around our world, this call is being ignored or not heard. We see evidence of this lack of love as we read the newsprint or more graphically view it on our TV screens … countries against each other, violence in our neighbourhood and, even more close to home, abuse within the family. A lot of attention has been paid, and rightly so, to the abuse of women and children but a growing trend is abuse of our elders.
As one who works with the elders in our community, I see their place in our community as
People who are still growing, still learning, still with potential and whose future life continues to have within it promise for a connection to the future. They are still in pursuit of happiness, joy and pleasure and her or his birthright to these remain intact. Moreover, they are people who deserve respect and honour and whose work it is to synthesize wisdom from lifelong experience and formulate this into a legacy for future generations.
(Canadian Health Policy)
This is the ideal … but many of our older citizens do not have this opportunity due to family members and societal abuse … and are living with the fear of being abused physically, financially and emotionally. How often do you hear an older person say ‘I am a burden on society’. Who gave them that message? Or ‘I didn’t like to worry them’ (them being the family).
How often do the carers just not turn up to provide the services needed? How often do our elders have to wait for medical assistance or surgery.
How user-friendly are our streets, facilities and churches?
Or be told ‘My son has sold my house and I am being put into care,’ or ‘he has sold my house so that he can purchase a larger one for his family and I will have to live with them’.
‘I have no money for food etc because my son/daughter or grandchild has used my eftpos card.’
Or when residential care is the best option for the older person family members disagree because they are afraid they will lose their inheritance.
A family member expecting the parent to pay outstanding debts.
What of the spiritual needs of the older person. Are we meeting these?
These are just a few aspects of the abuse of our older people. These sometimes occur because the main family carer is so exhausted from caring for their sick, loved one and there is no relief in sight.
What has happened to the words of Isaiah 43:4 ‘You are precious in my sight, and honoured and I love you’. Our older people have the right to dignity and our respect.
Help is available through health agencies and Age Concern, Elder Abuse and Neglect Services.
Age Concern Wellington Elder Abuse & Neglect Service Coordinator, Beverley Burns, says local communities and people in general need to be sensitised to issues of elder abuse and neglect and realise that ‘you’re never too old to be hurt’.
The United Nations has designated 15 June as World Awareness Day of Elder Abuse and Neglect to draw attention to the plight of so many victims.